Oklahoma City bombing

Oklahoma City bombing

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The Oklahoma City bombing occurred when a truck packed with explosives was detonated on April 19, 1995, outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people and leaving hundreds more injured. The blast was set off by anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh, who in 2001 was executed for his crimes. His co-conspirator Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison.

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a Ryder rental truck exploded with terrifying force in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

The powerful explosion blew off the building’s entire north wall. Emergency crews raced to Oklahoma from across the country, and when the rescue effort finally ended two weeks later, the death toll stood at 168 people.

The list of the deceased included 19 young children who were in the building’s day care center at the time of the blast. More than 650 other people were injured in the bombing, which damaged or destroyed over 300 buildings in the immediate area.

WATCH: Oklahoma City Bombing on HISTORY Vault

Timothy McVeigh

A massive hunt for the bombing suspects ensued, and on April 21 an eyewitness description led authorities to charge Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. Army soldier, in the case.

As it turned out, McVeigh was already in jail, having been stopped a little more than an hour after the bombing for a traffic violation and then arrested for unlawfully carrying a handgun. Shortly before he was scheduled to be released from jail, he was identified as a prime suspect in the bombing and charged.

That same day, Terry Nichols, an associate of McVeigh’s, surrendered in Herington, Kansas. Both men were found to be members of a radical right-wing survivalist group based in Michigan.

On August 8, Michael Fortier, who knew of McVeigh’s plan to bomb the federal building, agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence. Two days later, McVeigh and Nichols were indicted on charges of murder and unlawful use of explosives.

Domestic Terrorists Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing

While still in his teens, McVeigh, who was raised in western New York, acquired a penchant for guns and began honing survivalist skills he believed would be necessary in the event of a Cold War showdown with the Soviet Union.

He graduated from high school in 1986 and in 1988 enlisted in the Army, where he proved to be a disciplined and meticulous soldier. While in the military, McVeigh befriended fellow soldier Nichols, who was more than a dozen years his senior and shared his survivalist interests.

In early 1991, McVeigh served in the Persian Gulf War. He was decorated with several medals for his military service; however, after failing to qualify for the Special Forces program, McVeigh accepted the Army’s offer of an early discharge and left in the fall of 1991.

At the time, the American military was downsizing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another result of the end of the Cold War was that McVeigh shifted his ideology from a hatred of foreign communist governments to a suspicion of the U.S. federal government, especially as its new leader Bill Clinton, elected in 1992, had successfully campaigned for the presidency on a platform of gun control.

McVeigh, Nichols and their associates were deeply radicalized by such events as the August 1992 shoot-out at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, between federal agents and survivalist Randy Weaver at his rural cabin, and the Waco siege of April, 1993, in which 75 members of a Branch Davidian religious sect died near Waco, Texas.

McVeigh planned an attack on the Murrah Building, which housed regional offices of such federal agencies as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the agency that had launched the initial raid on the Branch Davidian compound.

On April 19, 1995, the two-year anniversary of the disastrous end to the Waco siege, McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck loaded with a diesel-fuel-fertilizer bomb outside the Murrah Building and fled. Minutes later, the massive bomb exploded.

McVeigh and Nichols Sentenced

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was convicted on all 11 counts against him, and on August 14 the death penalty was formally imposed.

The following year, Fortier, who had met McVeigh in the Army, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn authorities about the Oklahoma City bombing plan. Fortier was released from prison in 2007 and entered the witness protection program.

In December 1997, Nichols was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, for killing federal law enforcement personnel, and was sentenced to life in prison. In 2004, he was tried on state charges in Oklahoma and convicted of 161 counts of first-degree murder, including fetal homicide. He received 161 consecutive life terms in prison.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum

In December 2000, McVeigh asked a federal judge to stop all appeals of his convictions and to set a date for his execution.

The request was granted, and on June 11, 2001, McVeigh, at age 33, died by lethal injection at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was the first federal prisoner to be put to death since 1963.

In May 1995, the Murrah Building was demolished for safety reasons, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum later opened at the site.

Retired FBI Agent Reflects on Tragic Day and How it Shaped the Bureau

Soon after, Black was pulled from his fugitive case to begin working the massive investigation of the deadly bombing that took the lives of 168 people, including 19 children, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The efforts of Black and scores of federal, state, and local investigators led to the convictions of Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier, in one of the worst homegrown terrorism cases in the nation’s history.

“It was a group effort. I was there doing my part just like everyone else,” said Black, who recently retired from the FBI.

The event shaped the FBI’s approach to investigating terrorism.

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 was the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history, resulting in the deaths of 168 people. In a matter of seconds, the blast destroyed most of the nine-story building, incinerated nearby vehicles, and damaged or destroyed more than 300 other buildings.

‘I Never Thought it Was a Gas Explosion’

Special Agent Jim Norman (seated, left) was one of the first FBI agents to arrive at the Murrah building after the explosion. He was appointed to supervise the OKBOMB investigation.

W hen the bomb went off, Special Agent Jim Norman was at his desk at the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office, located about five miles northwest of the Murrah building. “It shook everything in the office,” Norman recalled. “Files fell off people’s desks where they were piled up.” One of the Bureau’s senior bomb technicians, Norman, now retired, rushed into his supervisor’s office. “We looked toward downtown Oklahoma City and you could see a tan cloud of debris rising from that area. I told my supervisor, ‘I think a bomb detonated downtown. We need to go down there.’”

In his car on the way to the scene, a local radio station was reporting that the blast might have been caused by a natural gas explosion, but in his gut, Norman knew it was a bomb from the sound he had heard. “I never thought it was a gas explosion,” he said. Less than 15 minutes after the blast, he parked two blocks away from the Murrah building. It was as close as he could get because of all the debris.

“I ran over to where all the smoke was,” he said. “As I was heading that way, a number of people were running in the opposite direction. I approached the north entrance and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The whole front of the building had been torn off. On the left side of the building, in some places the flooring had been torn away all the way to the back wall. That building was 200 feet wide and 80 feet deep.”

Standing before the massive, tangled pit of debris and bodies, Norman began thinking like the seasoned bomb tech and investigator that he was. And a thought occurred to him: “‘Our lives have changed forever,’—because I knew the magnitude of what we were facing.”

A Past and Future History

In May the United States braced itself for the inevitable carnival that would surround the execution of Timothy McVeigh for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Then suddenly the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that - oops! - it had failed to turn over 3,000 pages of evidence to McVeigh's attorneys during the discovery process at McVeigh's trial.

Shortly thereafter, Timothy McVeigh's attorneys announced they were seeking a stay of execution, making accusations of "a fraud upon the court" by the federal government, which had already admitted it withheld documents during both the trial and sentencing phases of the process against McVeigh. 1 The attorneys also alleged there were ". still critical documents about this investigation being withheld by the FBI. " 2

This revelation was the latest "oops" in a pattern of irregularities leading all the way back to the FBI's involvement in the Ruby Ridge standoff in 1992, where either the ATF or FBI tampered with evidence and withheld it in the Randy Weaver trial and later engaged in a cover-up of FBI misconduct in the whole affair.

The FBI's role at Waco will remain one of the dark days of its history. The Cato Institute's No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident documents felonies committed by government agents, including a videotaped criminal assault on a TV reporter by federal agents (which have never been prosecuted). In 1997, the FBI paid $1.16 million to a former crime laboratory agent, who was fired after he blew the whistle on serious irregularities in the evidence testing in hundreds of cases, including the World Trade Centre and Oklahoma City bombings. Just recently, FBI counterintelligence officer Robert Hansen was accused of spying for the Russians for 15 years and has subsequently been indicted following failed plea bargain attempts. After holding accused Chinese spy Wen Ho Lee for almost a year without trial - oops! - all charges but one were dropped, an obvious save-face for the FBI.

Clinton's Justice Department

Timothy McVeigh was originally resigned to being executed in May, but he reversed himself following the FBI's latest announcement about its retention of evidence. McVeigh attempted to utilize his case to demonstrate his rationale for the bombing in the first place, that the federal government is running outside of accountability and control, but his appeal was denied. Although no one would agree with McVeigh's criminal action, he was not alone in his conviction that things are radically wrong. Author David Limbaugh (brother of talk show host Rush Limbaugh) makes the argument in his new book, Absolute Power, that the Clinton administration thoroughly corrupted the Justice Department.

On the day President Clinton had his hair cut while Air Force One sat on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport, delaying air traffic for hours, the president's administration under Janet Reno fired all 93 of the country's United States attorneys! 3 The mainline media covered the haircut and ignored this unprecedented firing, which should have been the first indicator that the Justice Department was being politicized.

This was followed by the Waco debacle, the Justice Department's war against the tobacco industry, and an endless series of Clinton administration scandals with follow-up investigations that were clearly whitewashes and cover-ups. The administration used the IRS to persecute conservative groups and illegally used FBI files to blackmail political opponents. Other events, such as the violent raid to retrieve Cuban child refugee Elin Gonzlez, only served to deepen this image of government. Millions were enraged at the photograph of Elin being removed at gunpoint by a federal agent. A civil rights complaint in the matter was filed at the end of May, naming (among others) former Attorney General Janet Reno, who was served papers while lunching at a restaurant in Miami. The mainline media probably didn't tell you that either. All of these events - and more - served to erode credibility in government. But how had the country arrived at this point?

The Country's Great March Left

After a postwar decade of prosperity in the 1950s, the fabric of the U.S. common belief system underwent radical changes in the 1960s and succeeding decades. The civil rights movement flowered in the '60s and ended segregation. While it was intended to be the equalization of long-standing injustices against African-Americans, it was soon joined by Vietnam War protests and other causes on college campuses, generally driven by radical leftist and pro-Marxist ideology. Eventually the civil rights movement was hijacked by the new left to create a whole new victim class of people who merited special treatment, wherein all sorts of groups demanding all sorts of imagined "rights" climbed onto the civil rights bandwagon. Martin Luther King would not recognize his dream today.

By the middle 1980s, traditional American values were largely disenfranchised and ridiculed in the public arena. People knew something was wrong this wasn't the America they had known and they knew they weren't being heard but didn't know why. There was no such thing as "bipartisanship" in Congress in those days. Conservatives were given crumbs from the table, as long as they didn't interfere with the liberal political agenda.

In the mid-'80s, conservatives found a forum in the phenomenon of talk radio and the airwaves crackled with the voice of a new anti-establishment protest, this time from the right instead of the left. (Note that the young, leftist anti-government protestors of the '60s, President Clinton among them, had become the establishment leftists of the '80s and '90s.) By the 1990s, conservative talk radio was in full swing, transmitting a daily avalanche of heretofore unheard information and viewpoints. At the same time, cheap FAX technology and email enabled conservative political groups, foundations and think tanks to rapidly disseminate information which had previously been stifled by the leftist media, whose decades-long choke hold on the public mind had finally been broken. The religious right was also beginning to see fruit in its decades-long push to gain influence inside the Republican party, especially the pro-life movement.

At this time, right-wing discontent with government reached new peaks. Education had derailed itself, after billions of dollars of investment and failed promises of "reform" from the education establishment. Property rights had taken a brutal beating from the war on drugs and the environmental movement. Millions of Americans were facing debt issues with the IRS as government taxes soared. In hundreds of stories, people could recount some unfortunate tangle with the establishment, having found themselves hopelessly entangled in a web of government regulations, laws, fines and penalties.

In the early 1990s, certain events catalyzed the conservative movement. Not only was it gaining a huge head of stream, but Ruby Ridge and Waco occurred, adding to the anxieties of many that parts of their government might just be running out of control. As scandals in the Clinton administration unfolded one by one, the new talk radio kept promulgating facts that the mainliners had tried to "spike."

The mainline media was generally oblivious to the rising influence of the new kids on the block, but a wake-up shock hit them during the November 1994 elections, which produced a landslide turn toward conservatism. The TV network news organizations covering election returns that night were visibly shaken by the results. Dan Rather referred to it as a "national temper tantrum." The national temper tantrum continued to build in crescendo and the left-wing socialist agenda of 30 years seemed in dire straights. That was until the morning of April 19, 1995, when a tragic bomb blast in Oklahoma City killed 168 innocent men, women and children.

A Presidential Call for Disunity

Oklahoma City did not occur in a vacuum. There had been a rising tide of discontent with government, much of it justified but with all political movements or trends, there are extremes.

After the bombing, the appropriate action would have been for President Clinton to unite the country as one in grieving over a disastrous tragedy. But he chose to do exactly the opposite. Within 48 hours, the president began a campaign to blame everyone on the right for the "atmosphere of hate" that had caused the tragedy. The left-wing media joined in the feeding frenzy. No one was exempt: pro-lifers, pro-family organizations, home schoolers, the religious right (portrayed as whackos) and especially "hate radio."

Although a few brave souls in Congress and elsewhere attempted to stand on principle during the onslaught and challenged the president's wild allegations, the country's emotional trauma acted like a volcanic explosion that blew away any reasoned effort to stand in the storm of hysteria.

The Fallout from the Oklahoma City Bombing

People on the right scrambled to look "moderate." The left called the tune and the right danced to it. Talk show hosts were fired or told to tone it down. Elected representatives refused to stand on principle. Overnight, the entire conservative movement went underground by looking "moderate."

Just nine days after the bombing, in his daily report on April 28, 1995, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council wrote: "The liberal media and politicians may have accomplished their goal in the last few days by linking the thugs who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City with legitimate conservative political views. A number of congressmen have told me that their fellow conservatives in Congress are 'scared' and on the defensive. How long this paranoia will last is anyone's guess." 4 That paranoia has lasted until now. It effectively scuttled the conservative comeback. As a result of the Oklahoma City fire storm, new political categories have emerged in the press. "Mainstream" people are liberals. "Moderates" are conservatives who don't oppose what the liberals want to do. "Extremists" are those who oppose the socialist agenda.

Following Oklahoma City, the Republican Party leadership hustled quickly to move its image towards center, leaving true conservatives, religious righters, pro-lifers and Constitutionalists alone by themselves on the genuine right. As such, the Republican party surrendered its ability to counter the constant leftward drone towards socialism. Those who are called "far right" today are really conservatives who had not moved while the country and Republican party went radically left.

Religious conservatives are now discovering they are orphans within the party they once worked so hard to promote: still hopeful, but not quite understanding what went wrong. The most recent indicator of this was the passage last week of HR1, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, with most of the provisions for national control of education intact. There is little difference now between Democrats and Republicans. They are both marching leftward.

But once again, there is a growing disillusioned discontent similar to the political buildup that began in the early 1990s as people begin to realize that there is something wrong. The alternative media are growing and going mainstream. Once again, dissenting voices are beginning to be heard. Where it will lead this time remains to be seen.

Oklahoma City bombing - HISTORY

On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 a.m. a forty-eight-hundred-pound ammonium nitrate–fuel oil bomb exploded in a Ryder truck parked at the north entrance of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring approximately 850. The governor's office reported that thirty children were orphaned, 219 children lost at least one parent, 462 people were left homeless, and seven thousand people lost their workplace. The City of Oklahoma City's Final Report estimated property damage to more than three hundred buildings in a forty-eight-square-block area.

Reckless media accusations that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists led to two days of intensive anti-Muslim hysteria throughout the nation. The arrests of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, however, brought the uncomfortable realization that the perpetrators were military veterans of the Gulf War who found persuasive the conspiratorial world view of militia culture and viewed the bombing as a justifiable attack against the federal government of the United States, in which the murder of innocents was characterized, in McVeigh's words, as "collateral damage."

Both were indicted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on August 10, 1995, on conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of such a weapon, destruction by explosive, and eight counts of first-degree murder. Accomplice Michael J. Fortier was also indicted on four counts, including conspiracy to transport stolen firearms. McVeigh was found guilty on all counts on June 2, 1997, and executed on June 11, 2001. Terry Nichols was found guilty of conspiracy and manslaughter on December 24, 1997, and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Fortier was sentenced to twelve years in prison on May 27, 1998.

The bombing was the nation's worst single act of domestic terrorism (superceded in numbers of dead only by the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in New York City). Intensive and enduring media coverage created an imagined bereaved community in which people around the world felt emotionally connected with the deceaseds' grieving family members, who often appeared on television to eulogize their loved ones, with bloodied survivors who related their harrowing stories of escape and rescue attempts of fellow workers and friends, and with professional rescuers, whose grim work turned almost immediately from rescue of the living to the recovery of the dead.

Four master narratives helped people locate the bombing in a coherent interpretive context. There was a "progressive narrative" that celebrated the "Oklahoma standard," the selfless actions of thousands of people who sought to help in countless ways. This narrative envisioned a city revitalized by its courageous response, recommitting itself to massive programs of urban renewal and other acts of civic enrichment. A "redemptive narrative" emerged in this overwhelmingly conservative Protestant city, as religious communities struggled with issues of forgiveness, doubt, and the presence, or absence, of God and Jesus Christ. Popular religiosity proclaimed the presence of angels hovering above the ruins and assisting people in their journey to the heavenly world, convictions that were also often expressed in material items left on the commemorative fence that surrounded the site.

A "toxic narrative" also emerged out of the bomb's enduring impact on the bodies and souls of so many. It is a story of an unfinished bombing, as suffering and unresolved grief offered a sobering counterpoint to those who too easily used pop psychology language of "closure" and "healing." There are, this narrative sadly cautioned, events that must be endured and not resolved. Hence the popularity among family members and survivors of the term, "the new normal."

Finally, a "traumatic narrative" transformed people who were affected by political violence into "patients" suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Unlike religious narratives of suffering, sorrow, and hope, this narrative did not speak of sin or injustice, but of a weak and passive self beset by parasitic traumatic memories. Even among those most seared by loss, the labels of "victims" and "patients" did not always sit well, and many family members and survivors turned to various forms of active grief to respond to the bombing: through work for habeas corpus reform, pro- and anti-death-penalty activism, expression through the arts, and work for victims' rights, and through participation in private and public forms of memorialization.

Unsolicited memorial ideas poured into Oklahoma City within days of the bombing, and by July 1995 the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building Memorial Task Force was formed, made up of ten committees and an advisory committee of 160 people. Chaired by Oklahoma City attorney Robert Johnson, the Task Force began by creating a mission statement that declared the memorial's purpose would be to "remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever." The Task Force (eventually the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation) had to negotiate difficult issues. They had to convince the city to close Fifth Street, which ran in front of the Murrah Site, in order to create a large memorial area. A subcommittee struggled to define who was a "survivor," since the mission statement called for survivors' names to be placed on the site as well as the names of those murdered. And they had to create a design competition for the physical memorial.

After a two-stage selection process, on June 24, 1997, a fifteen-member selection committee, which included eight family members and survivors, selected the design of Hans and Torrey Butzer from more than six hundred submissions. Large "gates of time," one marked "9:01" and the other "9:03," froze the time of the bombing on the site. The area included the Survivor Tree and the Journal Record Building, which houses a museum, archives, and research center for the prevention of terrorism, mounted tablets with survivors' names, a long, shallow reflecting pool, and perhaps the most distinctive feature, 168 lighted chairs marked by the names of those murdered.

Like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial is an environment that offers not only commemorative mourning space, but through a museum exhibition, educational programs, and research opportunities, offers protest against acts of violence. Unlike any other major memorial project up to that time, however, its process was unique, always offering a primary voice in deliberations to family members and survivors, and offering a bereaved community the opportunity to engage the tragedy through the creation of a distinctive memorial.


Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing, April 19, 1995 (Oklahoma City: City of Oklahoma City, 1996).

Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building: April 19, 1995 (N.p.: Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, 2001).

Clive Irving, In Their Name (New York: Random House, 1995).

Marsha Kight, comp., Forever Changed: Remembering Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995 (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998).

Edward T. Linenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Austin T. Turk, "Oklahoma City Bombing," in Violence in America: An Encyclopedia, ed. Ronald Gottesman (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999).

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History Through Pulitzer: “Oklahoma City Bombing”

Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken by Charles Porter IV on April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The photo was distributed by The Associated Press.

Do you recognize this image? It came to symbolize the lives lost in the deadliest act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In 1996 the photo was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Photography for Spot News.


On the morning of April 19, 1995, Charles Porter IV was working in the loan department of Liberty Bank in Oklahoma City when a massive explosion jolted his office. “To me, it was a sonic boom,” said Porter. “We looked out the window and we saw this big brown cloud of debris and dust.” A photographer in his spare time, Porter grabbed his camera from the trunk of his car and rushed to the scene. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building looked like a war zone. Broken glass littered the street. Rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble. Bleeding victims staggered from the wreckage. The entire front of the building was gone. “It was just like it had been shaved off,” said Porter. Out of the corner of his eye, Porter saw a police officer hand something to a firefighter. “I didn’t know what he was carrying,” he said. “The next frame I took was the fireman holding this infant.” The bombing killed 168 people. Among the dead were 19 children, including 1-year-old Baylee Almon, the girl in the photo.


By Omaha Photographer Bob Etzel

“For me, this photo brings back many memories. Not only does it show how first responders go into harm’s way to aid those in need but how, during disasters, many people come together to provide assistance where needed. I observed this first-hand after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

I first heard about the bombing on the radio while in my office in Omaha’s Zorinsky Federal Building. I turned on the network news channel to watch the broadcast. I was working as a photographer with the Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, at the time.

The next day, April 20th, I received instructions that the Omaha District was sending a team down to Oklahoma City to help document the damage, per a request from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was in charge of the criminal investigation and was acting separately.

On the 21st, myself and two structural engineers flew down to Oklahoma City and checked into the Corps office there. We received a briefing and were given photo IDs to be used as passes to get into the secure area. After being briefed, we reported to the ATF office in a trailer for further instructions. We went to the explosion site where I took photos. Then onto the warehouse, where evidence was being stored, to photograph items such as remnants of the truck that had been packed with explosives. We were even able to get into the Murrah Federal Building to document damage from within. Surprisingly, a couple of the elevators were operationally sound so we could use them. I took nearly a thousand photos and several hours of videotape documenting the damage and cleanup activities. I was overwhelmed by the damage that was done and the loss of life.

We also documented structural damage to the buildings surrounding the site, photographing the buildings within a mile (360-degree radius) from the explosion. An aircraft was also used to provide aerial photos to scale (modified C130). In addition, the ATF had obtained a truck like the one used by the bombers and set it up to show how it was done. I videotaped the event with an agent explaining how the explosive was set off. The video was sent to ATF headquarters by an aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base. The work we did in Oklahoma has since been used to inform new building codes and safety standards for the construction of federal buildings. The cooperation between agencies, for the most part, made the cleanup effort go fairly smooth. We all were keenly aware of the somber emotional impact of what we were doing.

The bombing killed 168 people, including 19 children, and damaged or destroyed over 300 buildings. Among the tragedy, heroes stepped forward (like the firefighter in this Pulitzer photo) and a community came together to help each other and even new arrivals, like us. During our stay, many volunteer organizations provided us food and needed supplies on-site. Despite the sadness, the community’s spirit of togetherness was unbroken.”

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As the Oklahoma state capital and the county seat of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City is centrally located within the state and is a major crossroads served by Interstate Highways 35, 40, 44, 235, and 240. The future Oklahoma City lay within an area that was formerly part of the Creek and Seminole nations in Indian Territory. In the 1870s and 1880s Montford T. Johnson, a contemporary of Jesse Chisholm, operated a ranch at Council Grove, in present western Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City sprang into existence on April 22, 1889, when approximately fifty thousand participants of the Land Run of 1889 claimed town lots and quarter sections in the area known as the Unassigned Lands. On that date an estimated four to six thousand settlers came to Oklahoma Station (later Oklahoma City) to establish homes and businesses.

Prior to the land opening the Southern Kansas Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built a line from the Kansas-Oklahoma border to Purcell, Indian Territory. At the North Canadian River a watering stop along that line, known as Oklahoma Station, was established in February 1887. A post office at Oklahoma Station opened on December 30, 1887. The post office was renamed Oklahoma on December 18, 1888, and finally, Oklahoma City on July 1, 1923. On April 19, 1889, three days prior to the land opening, Sidney Clarke, William L. Couch, and others formed the Seminole Town and Improvement Company in Topeka, Kansas. Two other townsite companies competed with the Seminole group in platting Oklahoma City. Consequently, accusations were made that some individuals were Sooners and lot jumpers and general confusion ensued.

From April 22, 1889, to May 2, 1890, the towns and communities in the Unassigned Lands existed under provisional government because the federal government had not foreseen the need to establish laws to govern the new territory. When the U.S. Congress passed the Organic Act on May 2, 1890, the laws of Nebraska applied to the newly formed Oklahoma Territory until local legislation could be passed. Oklahoma City was incorporated on July 15, 1890. William L. Couch served as the first provisional mayor of Oklahoma City and Charles F. Colcord as the first police chief. When Couch resigned on November 11, 1889, Sidney Clarke became acting mayor until an election could be held. Andrew J. Beale was elected mayor on November 27, 1889. In 1890 William J. Gault became the first nonprovisional mayor.

With the passage of the Organic Act seven counties were established. Oklahoma County was originally known as County Two, with Oklahoma City as the county seat, and Guthrie was designated as the territorial capital. Rivalry between Guthrie and Oklahoma City for the capital existed until June 11, 1910. By a majority vote of the people on that date, Oklahoma City was selected as the state capital, and the state seal was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. William F. Harn and John J. Culbertson donated land for the capitol site. Ground-breaking for the capitol occurred on July 20, 1914, and the structure was completed on June 30, 1917. The Oklahoma State Capitol (listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NR 76001572) was built without a dome due to lack of funds as the United States entered World War I. However, on June 20, 2001, construction started on a dome, which was dedicated on November 16, 2002. In June 2002 The Guardian statue was placed atop the dome.

From 1889 to the 1910s city leaders and builders turned the railroad watering stop into a bustling commercial and transportation hub. Henry Overholser, a prominent early settler, had six prefabricated, two-story, wooden buildings transported to Oklahoma City in the early months of its development. He built the first opera house and constructed a palatial home, the Overholser House (NR 70000536), on the outskirts of town. Overholser and Charles G. "Gristmill" Jones, who established the first flour mill in Oklahoma Territory, organized the St. Louis and Oklahoma City Railroad in 1895. By 1898 that line connected Sapulpa and Oklahoma City.

When Oklahoma City's population more than doubled from 4,151 in 1890 to 10,037 in 1900, the need for housing escalated. To meet the demand John W. Shartel, Anton H. Classen, and others developed residential areas, which resulted in the first urban sprawl. Shartel opened the Florence Addition in 1898, and Classen organized the Highland Parked Addition (now Heritage Hills Historic and Architectural District, NR 79002006) in 1900. In 1902 Classen established the University and Marquette additions. That year Israel M. Putnam organized his real estate enterprise known as the Putnam Company and sold properties in Epworth View, Military Park, Putnam Park, Putnam Heights (now a Historic Preservation District, NR 82003693), Lakeside, and Lakeview Heights. In the 1910s and 1920s Gilbert A. Nichols constructed houses in present historic districts such as Crown Heights Historic District (NR 95001467), Gatewood West and East Historic Districts (NR 04000125 and 04000126), Capitol–Lincoln Terrace Historic District (NR 76001569), and Mesta Park. He is best remembered for the development of Nichols Hills, an exclusive residential area in northwest Oklahoma City.

In addition to Overholser's two-story buildings, other multistory structures included a three-story, brick and stone post office building dedicated on July 4, 1890. Construction of the five-story Oklahoma Publishing Company Building (NR 78002249) at 500 North Broadway Avenue began on January 17, 1909. By 1909 six brick and tile manufacturers operated to keep pace with the rapid construction of residences and office buildings. Charles Colcord built the twelve-story Colcord Building (NR 76001571) when completed in 1910, it was considered Oklahoma City's first skyscraper. Oilman William B. Skirvin had the Skirvin Hotel (NR 79002010) built at One Park Avenue in 1910–11. Solomon Layton designed the five-story Baum Building, which was modeled after the Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy, and constructed in 1909–10 at Robinson and Grand avenues.

Soon after the land opening settlers established subscription schools until taxes could be assessed to support public schools. After the land run Lyman H. and Martha Newton North opened a subscription school in a tent. Jennie (Mrs. Fred) Sutton established a school in the rear of a hardware store on First Street between Broadway and Robinson avenues. The first official year of public schools in Oklahoma Territory began on January 1, 1891. Oklahoma City received a $60,000 Carnegie grant for a public library which was constructed in 1899. The Draughon's Practical Business and Hill's Business colleges opened in 1903 and 1905, respectively. Construction of Mount St. Mary's Catholic Academy at 2801 South Shartel Avenue was completed in 1904. By 1909 Oklahoma City had ten public school buildings. In 1910 Central High School (NR 76001570) was completed at Northwest Eighth and Robinson streets. By 1930 the city had three high schools, six junior high schools, and fifty-one elementary schools, with a total enrollment of 38,593. The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, a two-year, residential public high school for academically gifted students, graduated its first class in 1992. At the turn of the twenty-first century several Oklahoma City institutions offered higher education: Oklahoma City University (NR 78002247), Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Branch, and Oklahoma City Community College. Vocational-technical schools included Francis Tuttle Technology Center/Institute and Metro Technology Centers.

In addition to educational facilities, the settlers quickly established churches, many of which have historical significance and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For example, the First Methodist Church structure at 131 Northwest Fourth Street was completed in October 1889. Also in 1889 Catholics built St. Joseph's Cathedral (NR 78002253) at the southwest corner of Northwest Fourth Street and Harvey Avenue. Although the Christian congregation met the first Sunday after the land opening, they did not built the First Christian Church (NR 84003383) at 1104 North Robinson Avenue until 1910–11. Seventeen charter members organized the First Baptist Church on November 2, 1889. Their first church, erected in 1890, was razed by fire. Since 1912 the First Baptist Church has been located at Eleventh Street and Robinson Avenue. The Episcopalians first constructed a church circa 1893 at Northwest Second Street, between North Harvey and North Robinson avenues. They later moved to Northwest Fourth Street and Broadway Avenue, and finally to St. Paul's Cathedral at 127 Northwest Seventh Street (NR 77001096). On November 3, 1889, thirty-six charter members organized the First Presbyterian Church, which had several locations before moving to its present site at Northwest Twenty-fifth Street and Western Avenue in 1954. Jews met at various locations until the Temple B'Nai Israel at 50 Broadway Circle was dedicated in January 1908. By 1930 Oklahoma City had 114 houses of worship, and Robinson Avenue was known as "the Avenue of Churches."

Initially, the local economy was based on agriculture. Wheat, cotton, and cattle dominated the market. By 1894 farmers supported a corn mill, a grain elevator, a cotton gin, and several grain mills. The Oklahoma Canning Company operated between the months of July and October and was situated on Choctaw Avenue between South Robinson and South Broadway avenues. In 1899 an Oklahoma City Club promotion pamphlet boasted that five to ten thousand bales of cotton were marketed and seventy-five thousand bales were compressed at Oklahoma City. The brochure also stated that the city had thirty-six wholesale houses and twenty-six manufacturers. Around 1909 Colcord, Classen, and others enticed two meat-packing plants to build near the Oklahoma National Stockyards in southwest Oklahoma City.

Representative of some of Oklahoma City's early manufacturing firms were the Oklahoma Carriage Manufacturing Company (ca. 1894), Jackson Plow Manufacturing Company (ca. 1894), J. B. Klein Iron and Foundry Company (1909), Boardman Company (1910), Jay Kola (circa 1918), Macklanburg-Duncan Company (1920), and Fred Jones Manufacturing Company (1938). By 1921 fifty-two of the city's seventy-six automobile dealerships were situated along "Automobile Alley," located on North Broadway Avenue between Fourth and Thirteenth streets. Automobile Alley Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 99000351). A General Motors Assembly Plant operated from 1979 to 2006. At the turn of the twenty-first century the top five employers in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area were the State of Oklahoma, Tinker Air Force Base, the U.S. Postal Service, the University of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City Public Schools. Other large employers included the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, the City of Oklahoma City, Integris Baptist Medical Center, and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The 1920s witnessed further economic development. In 1921 the Traders Compress Company built a cotton compress and warehouse at the intersection of East Reno and Eastern avenues. The last bale of cotton was shipped from this location in November 1969, and the structure was razed in March 1970. On December 4, 1928, the Oklahoma City Number One discovery well (NR 77001095) was completed by the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company and the Foster Petroleum Company. On March 26, 1930, the Mary Sudik Number One came in. Both wells were situated southeast of the Oklahoma City limits. On May 27, 1930, the Hall-Briscoe Number One Holmes was completed within the city limits. By 1935 the Oklahoma City oil field had produced 409 million barrels of crude oil, and ninety-five oil industry companies employed twelve thousand. The Capitol sits above an oil pool. In 1941 the Capitol Site Number One (also known as Petunia Number One) was brought in, using directional drilling, on the south plaza of the main entrance.

The 1930s were marked by the Great Depression and the subsequent federal New Deal programs, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). As a consequence of the depression, unemployed, migratory persons established a migrant camp in Oklahoma City along the North Canadian River between Byers and Pennsylvania avenues. Local organizations furnished clothing, food, and supplies to the destitute before federal aid became available. Federal programs brought about the construction of the Municipal Auditorium and amphitheaters at several municipal parks. A public art gallery opened January 5, 1936, and the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra was initiated under the Federal Music Project of the WPA in 1937. The PWA provided funding for the construction of the Oklahoma City National Guard Armory, which was completed in 1938.

With the advent of World War II the Oklahoma City metropolitan area gained the Midwest City Douglas Aircraft Company Plant. The plant closed in 1945, and the building was designated as Building 3001 at Tinker Air Force Base. Following World War II the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Standardization Center moved from Houston, Texas, to form Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City. When the Federation Aviation Agency (FAA) replaced the CAA in 1958, the installation became known as the FAA Aeronautical Center (now the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center).

Several Oklahoma-based retail businesses have had headquarters or outlets in Oklahoma City. Among them were Anthony Stores, T.G.&Y. Stores, Harold's Stores, and OTASCO. Food distributors have included William E. Davis and Sons and Fleming companies. Troy Smith started the Sonic fast-food chain in 1953 under the name of Top Hat Drive-In. In 1968 William H. Braum opened his first Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store in Oklahoma City. In addition, through the years the city has witnessed the development of ethnic business enclaves such as Second Street (Deep Deuce) and the Asian District.

Newspapers were Oklahoma City's earliest form of communication. Telephone, radio, and television soon followed. On May 9, 1889, Angelo C. Scott published the first newspaper in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Times. The Daily Oklahoman, begun in 1903, continued to serve citizens as the Oklahoman at the turn of the twenty-first century. The Missouri-Kansas Telephone Company provided service in the 1890s, and by 1909 the Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company served the city. Oklahoma City residents heard their first radio program in 1921 and witnessed the first television broadcast on November 10, 1939. At the turn of the twenty-first century SBC Communications (formerly Southwestern Bell) and Cox Communications offered telephone and Internet services. The three major local television stations were KFOR (channel 4), KOCO (channel 5), and KWTV (channel 9). In addition to the Oklahoman, the Journal Record and various ethnic papers, such as the Black Chronicles, the Oklahoma Chinese Times, and El National, have served the public.

Several events in Oklahoma City gained national attention. The Urschel kidnapping occurred on July 22, 1933, when George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his accomplice Albert L. Bates abducted prominent Oklahoma City resident Charles F. Urschel and his guest Walter Jarrett. On July 5, 1982, the Penn Square Bank was declared insolvent, causing other banks across the nation to close and resulting in the revision of banking laws. In April 1995 the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by an ammonium nitrate–fuel oil bomb, which killed 168 people and injured approximately 850.

The early railroads sustained communities until good roads could be built. The first railroad constructed through present Oklahoma City was the Southern Kansas Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) in 1887. Between 1890 and 1895 the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad) built a line that connected Oklahoma City to El Reno and McAlester. In 1898 the St. Louis and Oklahoma City Railroad (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, SL&SF) joined Sapulpa and Oklahoma City. Between 1902 and 1903 the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad) built a line between Oklahoma City and Agra in Lincoln County. That company also constructed a line from Coalgate to Oklahoma City in 1903–04. Between 1901 and 1902 the Oklahoma City and Western Railroad Company (later the SL&SF) built a line from Oklahoma City to Chickasha. By 1916 the interurban, operated by the Oklahoma Railway Company, radiated from Oklahoma City to Moore and Norman to the south, to Edmond and Guthrie to the north, and to El Reno to the west.

In 1916, one year after the Oklahoma City Model-T Ford assembly plant began operation, the number of automobiles outnumbered horses. Braniff International Airways had its start in Oklahoma City in 1928, and Central Airlines began operations in 1949. In the early 1940s three airlines (American, Braniff, and Continental) and ten bus lines served the city. At the turn of the twenty-first century commuters used the Lake Hefner Parkway, John Kilpatrick Turnpike, Broadway Extension, Northwest Expressway, and Centennial Expressway to reach their work destinations. Interstate Highways 35, 40, 44, 235, and 240 and U.S. Highways 62, 77, 270, and 277 provided access through the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Will Rogers World Airport and Wiley Post Airport accommodated air travelers. Since June 1999 the Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys, part of Oklahoma City's mass transit system, have furnished shuttle service from the Interstate 40/Meridian Avenue hotel and restaurant district to downtown and Bricktown.

Oklahoma City has experienced continual population growth. At 1907 statehood the city had 32,452 citizens. The numbers almost doubled by 1910 with 64,205 reported and rose to 91,295 in 1920. In 1930 the census indicated 185,389 residents. The population climbed to 204,424 and 243,504 in 1940 and 1950, respectively. Numbers increased to 324,253 in 1960, 368,164 in 1970, 404,255 in 1980, and 444,719 in 1990. At the turn of the twenty-first century Oklahoma City had 506,132 residents, of whom 68.2 percent were white, 15.1 percent African American, 10 percent Hispanic, 3.4 percent Asian, and 3.3 percent American Indian. The U.S. Census of 2010 counted 579,999 Oklahoma City residents.

Oklahoma City offers numerous attractions such as the Oklahoma History Center, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Science Museum Oklahoma, the National Softball Hall of Fame, the Forty-fifth Infantry Division Museum, and the Oklahoma City Zoological Park. Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City is the venue for a movie theater, restaurants, retail shops, and business offices. The Cox Convention Center, Chesapeake Energy Arena, and the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark provide locales for sporting and other recreational events. At the turn of the twenty-first century Oklahoma City had a council-manager form of city government.


Odie B. Faulk, Laura E. Faulk, and Bob L. Blackburn, Oklahoma City: A Centennial Portrait (Northridge, Calif.: Windsor Publications, 1988).

"Oklahoma City," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Angelo C. Scott, The Story of Oklahoma City (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Times-Journal Publishing Co., 1939).

Roy P. Stewart, Born Grown: An Oklahoma City History (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Fidelity Bank, 1974).

Susan Wallace and Tamara J. Hermen, Oklahoma City: A Better Living, A Better Life (Montgomery, Ala.: Community Communications, 1997).

Pendleton Woods, "Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area," in Cities of Oklahoma, ed. John W. Morris (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1979).

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The Significance of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Twenty years ago, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a massive truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This attack, which killed 168 men, women and children and injured hundreds more, remains the worst act of domestic (as opposed to international) terrorism in United States history.

The immediate impact of the bombing was obvious. The attack not only caused death and destruction but created a storm of media coverage covering this “attack on the heartland.” A secondary theme portrayed America’s “lost innocence.”

The fact that the attack was an act of domestic terrorism took the country by surprise. The media covered the bombing intensely not merely because of the enormity and scale of the attack but also because it seemed to represent something new. The most-scrutinized act of terrorism in recent years had been the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an act of international terrorism, but the attack on the Murrah building was committed by American citizens targeting their own government with a deadliness hitherto un-witnessed.

The media also rediscovered the dangerousness of the extreme right, a topic neglected since the mid-1980s. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols led reporters to the militia movement, whose ideology the Oklahoma City bombers shared. Stories about the militia movement blanketed the nation.

If the media was playing catch up, so too was law enforcement, which the bombing took by surprise. Indeed, the 1994 edition of Terrorism in the United States, the FBI’s annual report on international and domestic terrorism, had just given short shrift to domestic terrorism in general. The report’s section on domestic terrorism devoted most of its attention to violent acts by left-wing Puerto Rican independence activists and to animal rights and environmental extremists such as the Animal Liberation Front.

In contrast, the report spent only a paragraph describing the terrorist threat from right-wing extremists. It did not even mention the rapidly growing militia and sovereign citizen movements, nor make any reference to the anger generated within right-wing extremist movements by the standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993. The federal government seemed to have little understanding of the extreme right in the United States at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing.

After the bombing, everything changed. The FBI shifted its priorities, reassigning large numbers of agents to work domestic terrorism cases and hiring many new agents. It significantly expanded the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country and went to Congress with a lengthy “want” list. The Justice Department funded an anti-terrorist training program for senior state and local law enforcement executives.

The increased scrutiny of right-wing extremist groups and individuals resulted in a large number of arrests of anti-government extremists and white supremacists over the next few years, primarily on weapons, explosives, and conspiracy charges. It turned out that McVeigh and Nichols were hardly alone. When, in 1999, the FBI issued an analysis dubbed Project Megiddo, warning about potential dangers posed by religious and ideological extremists during the turn of the millennium, right-wing extremism was not ignored as it had been five years earlier.

On April 19, 2000, five years to the day after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum was officially dedicated, seemingly cementing the tragedy in America’s consciousness. But Edward T. Linenthal, a scholar who wrote about the development of the Memorial in The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory, wasn’t sure what the future would bring. Would the Memorial become an enduring part of national memory? Or perhaps, he asked, might “a future terrorist act that inflicts even more death consign Oklahoma City to a less prestigious location on the landscape of violence?”

The Unfinished Bombing debuted in October 2001, just weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The horrific events of that day definitively answered Linenthal’s question, the scale and scope of the 9/11 attacks understandably pushing the 1995 bombing from center stage. The 9/11 attacks, by their very destructiveness, helped to relegate the Oklahoma City bombing to a side exhibit in the national memory—to somewhere in the background of Linenthel’s “landscape of violence.” The 9/11 attacks were larger, far more deadly, and committed by a more faceless, harder-to-comprehend enemy, whether defined as Al Qaeda or more broadly as violent Islamic radicals in general.

As swiftly as the public eye had focused on extreme right movements after the Oklahoma City bombing, it now dropped them after September 11. The government, law enforcement and the media all rushed to grapple with the issue of Islamic extremism. Certainly, with a scale of death and destruction much larger than the April 1995 bombing, the 9/11 attacks warranted more attention. Of that, there is no question.

However, the 9/11 attacks, in so completely shifting attention away from Oklahoma City, as opposed to expanding national attention to encompass the dangers of both right-wing extremism and radical Islamism, in a sense appropriated part of the legacy and significance that the Oklahoma City bombing had to offer. It was as if the collective consciousness could only contemplate one terrorist threat at a time, rather than the multiple threats that the nation usually faces.

Even conspiracy theorists, who had built up a cottage industry claiming that the federal government was itself responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, now transferred those same ideas to the 9/11 attacks with the development of the so-called “9/11 Truth” movement. Moreover, the shift was not temporary but seemingly permanent. Today, a Google search on “9/11 attacks” will return more than 10 times as many results as a search on “Oklahoma City bombing.”

The result of this shift is that the significance of the Oklahoma City bombing, particularly in terms of its service as a warning of the dangers of domestic extremist movements, became somewhat truncated. The September 11 attacks in effect created two types of significance for the bombing: the importance that the bombing has actually had over the past 20 years and the importance that it could have had over these past years.

After all, it is not as if right-wing extremism disappeared after September 11. The history of right-wing extremism from 1995 to the present day has been one of a steady stream of plots, conspiracies, terrorist acts, and hate crimes. The recent history of extremist violence in the United States has in most respects been dominated by right-wing extremists.

To use just one measure, from January 1995 to the present day, the Anti-Defamation League has identified a minimum of 583 murders committed by right-wing extremists (including the Oklahoma City bombing victims) in the United States. This is a figure that greatly surpasses the deaths caused by other domestic extremists (left-wing extremists and anarchists, religious extremists, etc.). Domestic Islamic extremists come in second with 18 deaths and all other extremist movements together contribute a mere handful.

These statistics are not meant to minimize the threat posed by Islamic extremism, either domestic or international, to the United States. Domestic Islamic extremists are responsible for a great many of the terrorist plots and conspiracies of recent years, for example. Foreign terrorist groups use the Internet to inspire violence within the U.S.—and sometimes, as with the Boston Marathon bombing, succeed. Islamic extremism is a very real threat to the United States.

But the statistics do illustrate that American “homegrown violent extremism,” to use a currently popular phrase, is not limited to extremism motivated by radical interpretations of Islam. The anger and hate that generated the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 is still around in 2015—and still dangerous. Indeed, beginning in 2009 a major resurgence of right-wing extremism emerged in the United States, one that has in the past several years generated a large number of violent acts and conspiracies.

The twentieth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing provides a new opportunity to ensure that its significance does not disappear. What 1995 and 2001 together teach is that the United States faces threats both from abroad and from within its own extremist fringes. Consequently, we must have the wisdom and capability to respond effectively and intelligently to ideological violence stemming from all sources. That would be the most positive way to pay homage to the victims of April 19, 1995.

The twentieth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing provides a new opportunity to ensure that its significance does not disappear. Share via Twitter Share via Facebook

History & Culture

Damaged Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Photo Credit: Michael Washington

Emotional and physical scars are left behind on thousands of people after the events of April 19, 1995. The bombing effected the lives of everyone in the surrounding areas and even those who never before set foot in Oklahoma. People's stories and lives entwined with this senseless act of violence that stole so much from the world.

The names of survivors within a two block radius of the blast site are found on the "Survivor Wall." The wall consists of four granite slabs, salvaged from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, positioned upon the only remaining portion of the building still standing.

On the footprint of the Murrah Building are 168 empty chairs. Each chair bears the name of one of the 168 people killed by the bombing. These chairs are organized first by row, agency and then alphabetically. The nine horizontal rows represent the nine floors of the federal building. Five chairs on the western side of the footprint lie outside this organizational pattern, honoring the five lives that were lost outside of the Murrah Building.

The narrative of the Oklahoma City bombing weaves its way throughout small town America. The story starts in Pendleton, New York, and rural Decker, Michigan, the homes of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, respectively. It continues at Fort Riley, Kansas where these two men met entering the army and spirals throughout the entire country.

The hometowns and families of the 168 people who were stolen that morning stretch from Africa to New Mexico. Yet, their lives are now forever intertwined with the wreckage of downtown Oklahoma City. Each location holds an integral place in the story of this tragic event.


The building was designed by architects Stephen H. Horton and Wendell Locke of Locke, Wright and Associates and constructed by J.W. Bateson using reinforced concrete in 1977 [2] at a cost of $14.5 million. The building, named for federal judge Alfred P. Murrah, an Oklahoma native, opened on March 2, 1977. [3]

By the 1990s, the building contained regional offices for the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Secret Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation counseling center, the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). It also contained recruiting offices for the US Military. It housed approximately 550 employees. [4] It also housed America's Kids, a children's day care center.

In October 1983, members of the Christian militia group The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), including founder James Ellison and Richard Snell plotted to park "a van or trailer in front of the Federal Building and blow it up with rockets detonated by a timer." [5] While the CSA was building a rocket launcher to attack the building, the ordnance accidentally detonated in a member's hands. The CSA took this as divine intervention and called off the planned attack. Convicted of murder in an unrelated case, Richard Snell was executed on April 19, 1995, the same day the bombing of the federal building was carried out, after Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas declined to hear further appeal. [6]

At 9:02 a.m. local time on April 19, 1995, a Ryder rental truck, containing approximately 7,000 pounds (3175 kg) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitromethane, and diesel fuel was detonated in front of the building, destroying a third of it and causing severe damage to several other buildings located nearby. As a result, 168 people were killed, including 19 children, and over 800 others were injured. [7] It remains the deadliest domestic terrorist attack, with the most property damage, in the U.S.

Timothy McVeigh, an Army veteran, was found guilty of the attack in a jury trial and sentenced to death. He was executed in 2001. A co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, is serving multiple life sentences in a federal prison. Third and fourth subjects, Michael Fortier and his wife, Lori, assisted in the plot. They testified against both McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a 12-year prison term for Michael and immunity for Lori. Michael was released into the witness protection program in January 2006. [8]

McVeigh said that he bombed the building on the second anniversary of the Waco siege in 1993 to retaliate for U.S. government actions there and at the siege at Ruby Ridge. Before his execution, he said that he did not know a day care center was in the building and that, had he known, "It might have given me pause to switch targets." [1] The FBI said that he scouted the interior of the building in December 1994 and likely knew of the day care center before the bombing. [9]

Many works of art were in the building when it was destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing. [10] The Oklahoma City National Memorial displays art that survived the bombing. Lost works are as follows:

  • Sky Ribbons: An Oklahoma Tribute, 1978 fiber sculpture by Gerhardt Knodel
  • Columbines at Cascade Canyon, photograph by Albert D. Edgar
  • Winter Scene, photograph by Curt Clyne
  • Morning Mist, photograph by David Halpern
  • Charon's Sentinels, photograph by David Halpern
  • Soaring Currents, sisal and rayon textile by Karen Chapnick
  • Monolith, porcelain sculpture by Frank Simons
  • Through the Looking Glass, wool textile by Anna Burgress
  • Palm Tree Coil, bronze sculpture by Jerry McMillan.

An untitled acrylic sculpture by Fred Eversley was severely damaged, but survived the blast.

Rescue and recovery efforts were concluded at 11:50 pm on May 1, with the bodies of all but three victims recovered. [11] For safety reasons, the remains were to be demolished shortly afterward. However, McVeigh's attorney, Stephen Jones, called for a motion to delay the demolition until the defense team could examine the site in preparation for the trial. [12] More than a month after the bombing, at 7:01 am on May 23, the remains were demolished. [11] The final three bodies, those of two credit union employees and a customer, were recovered. [13] For several days after the remains' demolition, trucks hauled 800 tons of debris a day away from the site. Some of it was used as evidence in the conspirators' trials, incorporated into parts of memorials, donated to local schools, or sold to raise funds for relief efforts. [12]

Several remnants of the building stand on the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The plaza (on what was once its south side) has been incorporated into the memorial the original flagpole is still in use. The east wall (within the building's footprint) is intact, as well as portions of the south wall. The underground parking garage survived the blast and is used today, but is guarded and closed to the public. [14]

Consideration was given to not replacing the Murrah Building and to renting office space for agencies affected. Ultimately, the General Services Administration broke ground on a replacement building in 2001 which was completed in 2003. The new 185,000 square foot building was designed by Ross Barney Architects of Chicago, Illinois, with Carol Ross Barney as the lead designer. [15] Constructed on a two city block site, one block north and west of the former site, the new building's design maximized sustainable design and workplace productivity initiatives. Security design was paramount to the Federal employees and its neighbors. Secure design was achieved based on the GSA's current standards for secure facilities including blast resistant glazing. Structural design resists progressive collapse. Building mass, glazing inside the courtyard, and bollards help to maintain a sense of openness and security. The art in architecture component of the building incorporates a water feature that acts as an additional security barrier. [16]

Watch the video: Μάντσεστερ Σίτι - Τότεναμ 4-3 (May 2022).